Category: "RBC church life"

I have wanted to leave the church many times!

by Gavin  

I have wanted to leave the church many times!

[This blog is quoted directly and fully from the final chapter of Mark Dever’s book “What Is a Healthy Church?” published by Crossway Books]

 

I have wanted to leave this church many times … all the talk about battling sin and serving others; people keeping me accountable—people who are sinful themselves.” An elder in my church recently said all this.

 

He continued, “But I realize this is exactly the point because I’m still sinful, and I want to be done with sin. I need the accountability, the modeling, the care, the love, the attention. My flesh hates it all! But apart from all this, I probably would have divorced my wife, and then a second, and then a third, and never lived with my children. God shows his grace and care for me through his church.”

 

Healthy churches, churches that increasingly reflect the character of God as it’s been revealed in his Word, are not always the easiest places to be. The sermons might be long. The expectations might be high. The talk of sin will probably feel overdone to many. The fellowship might even feel, at least sometimes, intrusive. But the key is that word increasingly. If we increasingly reflect God’s character, then it stands to reason that aspects of our lives, individually and corporately, don’t reflect his character—there must be smudges on the mirror that need to be polished out, curves in the glass that need to be flattened. That takes work.

 

And God in his goodness has called us to live out the Christian life together, as our mutual love and care reflect the love and care of God. Relationships imply commitment in the world. Surely they imply no less in the church. He never meant our growth to occur alone on an island but with and through one another.

 

Does a healthy church, then, know joy? Oh, it knows joy, indeed! It knows the joy of real change. It knows the joy of broken shackles. It knows the joy of meaningful fellowship and true unity, not unity for its own sake, but unity around a common salvation and worship. It knows the joy of Christ-like love given and received. Most wonderfully, it knows the joy of “reflecting the Lord’s glory” and “being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

 

In the third commandment (Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11), God warned his people not to take his name in vain. He didn’t mean to simply prohibit profane language. He also meant to warn us against taking his name upon ourselves in vain, such that our lives speak falsely about him. This command is for us as the church.

 

Many churches today are sick. We mistake selfish gain for spiritual growth. We mistake mere emotion for true worship. We treasure worldly acceptance rather than divine approval, an approval which is generally given to a life that is incurring worldly opposition. Regardless of their statistical profiles, too many churches today seem unconcerned about the very biblical marks that should distinguish a vital, growing church.

 

The health of the church should concern all Christians, particularly those who are called to be leaders in the church. Our churches are to display God and his glorious gospel to his creation. We are to bring him glory by our lives together. This burden of display is our awesome responsibility and tremendous privilege.

 

So let’s go back to where we started. What are you looking for in a church? Are you looking for one that reflects the values of you and your community or one that reflects the out-of-this-world and glorious character of God? Of these two options, which will better present a light on the hill for a world lost in darkness?

 

 

Dever, M., 2007. What Is a Healthy Church?, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

#feesmustfall 2016 - prayer thoughts for our church

by Gavin  

#feesmustfall 2016 - prayer thoughts for our church

 

We awoke yet again to news of a student protest in Parktown this morning, after a weekend of reports of continued unrest across various campuses in South Africa.  How should Christians respond?  One temptation, I suppose, is to grumble and complain and air opinions.  However, there is a depth and complexity to this whole movement which I fear many of us fail to grasp and understand, and therefore our opinions probably don’t really reflect much true consideration of the deep rooted anger, economics disparity and suspicion that simmers under the surface in our country.

 

This short piece is by no means an attempt to delve into the intricacies of the issues.  In fact, this should be read in conjunction with my previous musings from a year ago (see previous blog).  This is therefore more to urge prayer from our church people as we live and function in this community which is so affected by these protests.  Our church families have students who are in this university cauldron, and their own lives and studies have been affected. There are also families in our church who would really benefit from a #feesmustfall outcome in that they do not have the financial means to afford tertiary education.  Our supported gospel ministry on Wits campus has also been disrupted by the protest action.

 

I know that we as a local church have prayed for this matter – it has featured as prayer items in our Fellowship Groups, men’s “Okes” group and even in corporate intercessory prayer in services.  It is right that we do so…

 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,” (1 Timothy 2:1–3, ESV)

 

We’re called to pray for our country and government.  Let’s include in that Minister Nzimande, the Department of High Education and other stake holders.  Pray for the various Senates and Vice-Chancellors.  Pray for the student leaders and students involved – for calm, safety and reason.  The way ahead is going to be fraught with many dangers and challenges.   But, for the sake of all in our country, pray!

 

But let’s also pray being mindful of the human sinfulness involved.  Sure, the initial protests have opened up (maybe rightfully) a can of worms, and exposed issues in society that have been forgotten.  But through the potential legitimacy of the original #feesmustfall action, there has been a slide to what the Bible accurately attributes to human depravity… consider the actions and attitudes of the radical protesters, the rampant violence, the arson, the anti-authoritarian resistance etc against the backdrop of Scripture:

 

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:28–31, ESV)

 

Is that description of human depravity not reflected in what is happening, in and through the actions of certain students and student leaders?  To be sure, much of what is occurring goes far beyond the original peaceable call for the fee issue to be addressed, but the hot-headedness of the 2016 protests is in stark contrast with the relative calm of 2015. 

 

In fact, the apostle Paul describes this scene in the context of the last days…

 

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1–5, ESV)

 

Are we not seeing just a taste of that through the student unrest?

 

So then, should not a fair chunk of prayer be for the penetration of the gospel into this mess?  Surely we would be better serving the cause of God by praying “Your Kingdom come” when we gather and pray, as opposed to merely rehashing our opinions, “insights” and grumblings?  Pray that those who act like this because they do not know Christ, would indeed, by a divine and gracious intervention of God, come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.  Pray that some dramatic “But God” style intervention occurs, as per what Paul describes…

 

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:3–5, ESV)

 

And in fact, going back to the preceding verses, how should we pray for our Christian students on our campuses?  We at Randburg Baptist Church have students at Wits, UJ, Tuks and North West (Mahikeng)?  How should we pray for them?  Here are some pointers…

 

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1–2, ESV)

 

and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12, ESV)

 

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV)

 

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:15–16, ESV)

 

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22, ESV)

 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

 

So then, can I appeal to our Randburg Baptist Church for renewed prayer in this regard – for all concerned and involved in whatever way?  Let’s appeal to our God for His sovereign intervention – undeserving as we are as a nation for anything good from Him – to work, act, restrain, convict, save, lead, guide, assist and grant wisdom in this #feesmustfall scenario that is playing out across our land.

Praying for the men in your pulpit

by Gavin  

Praying for the men in your pulpit

The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day she asked him why.

 

"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages, "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon."

 

"How come He doesn't do it?" she asked.

 

OK, so stop laughing now….!!!! J  That was NOT my daughter, and even so, she would NEVER had said something like that… I hope!

 

There are many passages in Scripture that could (and should!) be used to shape our praying for those who, in God’s goodness to us, are charged with the exposition of His Word to us week by week.  We lack no depth of content as to what we could be praying for our preachers – at Randburg Baptist Church and elsewhere.

 

But as I was busy with my own reading plan earlier this morning, I came across Ezekiel 2… I know, these are words given to Ezekiel, and not to me. The context is different.  He was in exile.  Israel was still rebellious in outlook and action against God.  But – there is a consistent challenge to faithfulness in prophetic ministry that I think ripples through the centuries, is there not?

 

1 And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. 8 “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” 9 And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

 

Randburg Baptist Church family, will you not commit to pray for the men who occupy our pulpits, at 9am and 12pm services, at our Diepsloot church plant, and also in the various teaching modules and Fellowship Groups, men’s and women’s meetings? 

  • Pray for diligent study, wise application, excellent delivery – but above all, a commitment to have God’s Word heralded, irrespective of whether it is liked, disliked, appreciated, resisted or heeded. 
  • Pray for the ministry of the Spirit to convict lost sinners, to warn professing believers who don’t truly follow Christ, to edify the saints and to bring life change to all of us.

 

Pray by name for our preachers:

  •  Gavin Johnston
  • Khulekani Mzilankatha
  • Gideon Mpeni
  • Bafana Tshabalala
  • Elias Masango
  • Lulamile Galoshe
  • Enoch Mpiko

 

What's bugging you?

by Gavin  

What's bugging you?

Mosquitos are niggly, horrible, buzzing things.  They sneak up on you, and then, out of nowhere, that burning, stinging itch starts.  Some are worse than others… I remember one bite I sustained on a bus in Cairo.  Egyptian mozzies are on steroids, and it felt like my hand had been immersed into sulphuric acid, with a weal that resembled a balloon on my hand.

 

What remedies do we use for a mozzie bite?  Scratch lots?  Methylated spirts?  Smear on antihistamine cream if available?  Or just leave it, and wait for the symptoms to resolve.

 

You see, the irritation is actually pretty short-lived.  Not one of us has rushed to a local ER for hospitalization and radical amputation for a mozzie bite.  It is an irritation, and at worst a bad irritation.  But it is not life threatening and not something that warrants major attention.

 

Can I confess something?  I have probably been a mosquito to you as a church member or adherent.  I am, if we're honest, a pastor that bug you from time to time (hopefulyl, not ALL the time...?) No doubt I have overlooked, forgotten or said something stupid in the last year, month or week.  That’s life in a sin affected world.  It was not intentional, and no malice was meant.  Without being funny or offensive, you have probably been a mosquito to someone else too – through things said, or unsaid, actions done or undone, right?

 

Think about it.   Imagine the scene…

 

+  Your favourite uncle promised to attend your soccer game, but double-booked and couldn’t make it. 

+  You’ve bought a new dress, spent a fortune at the hairdresser and manicure parlour, and your husband walks in at the end of a long day, and doesn’t even notice that there is anything different about your new exterior.

+  Your wife moves your car into the garage and nicks the painted side mirror.

+  Your name gets left off the church birthday notices in the weekly bulletin. 

+  Someone walks past you in the pew in church and steps on your toe.

+  That church member doesn’t greet you one Sunday morning in the foyer.

+  Or…. whatever!

 

The list of seemingly insignificant little things that are done accidentally, thoughtlessly and non-maliciously is endless.  But how do we respond to these things when they happen?  There is no sin intended, no hidden agenda of using that action to quietly launch a subtle personal attack on you.  So then, why is it that those little incidents provoke us to something resembling a nuclear attack on the “offending party?”

 

Paul wrote this to the Ephesians :

 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV)

 

Hmmm… bear with one another in love?  What does that mean?  Well, quite simply, put up with each other.  Overlook the minor stuff.  That’s fully consistent with what Solomon counselled :

 

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12, ESV).

 

So, how good are you are overlooking offences?  If you are, it is actually commended in the Bible :

 

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11, ESV). 

 

Scripture does not commend behaviour that is pride-filled, reactive and explosive.  It upholds patience, long-suffering and forbearance.  Peter even re-states the issue this way:

 

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV)

 

So then, what is bugging you about someone?  What is bugging you about me?  What is bugging me about you?  What irritating, mosquito-like behaviours are we inflicting on each other?  And then, how do we handle that?  More particularly, how do we handle that in a way that is biblical and honouring to Christ, as opposed to just reacting in the flesh?

 

The wise person who is responding in God-glorifying ways does not take offence at the accidental or the inconsequential.  The people who are quick to anger take everything as personal attacks on themselves.  Wisdom does not take offence at the accidental.  That is equally true of the inconsequential – those actions or words that might have been sin, but also might not have been.  “Was his voice too sharp?  Was his tone disrespectful?  Was that oversight deliberate?”  The wise person shows patience and refuses to imagine offences, or construct offences where there was absolutely no malice intended.

 

In our homes, marriages, families, workplaces and in our church family, do we do this?  Do we overlook the accidental and inconsequential?  The best way to avoid bitterness and lingering, stewing anger is to overlook and ignore the inconsequential and the accidental, and to truly forgive the consequential and the actual sins.  That, according to Proverbs, is to our glory, but also ultimately to the Lord’s. 

 

What do you need to do in response to the bugging of people?

 

[This is a repost of an old Facebook blog done in February 2015, and added to the official RBC site as a musings and a resource!]

 

 

 

 

 

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